I go back to work in 6 weeks time. On the 3rd January I’ll drop The Boy to nursery, leave Melon with my Mom for the last day of the school holidays, and off I’ll go. At that point, I will have been off work for over 18 months. I had a year of maternity leave, and then took some extra unpaid leave so I could be around for Melon starting school and the process of getting her diagnosed, but now that’s all done and dusted. Melon is settled in at school. Her Diagnosis is official. I have a start date for work, agreed working hours, and budget planned out. I have drafted in family members to pick Melon up from school 2 days a week, and have introduced them to the post-school routine. We have a placement booked for The Boy at the same nursery where Melon was so very happy.
But, here’s the thing. In all of this planning and preparation, I haven’t once for a moment stopped to try and prepare myself for the fact that I am going back, and what this will mean for Liz the nurse. Not Mom, not autism carer, not wife.
I read something on a facebook Autism page this week that really made me think. For once, it was nothing to do with diagnosis, sensory issues, sleep deprivation or the seething rage against Autism Speaks. It was a post from the page “Lost and Tired”, where the guy spoke briefly, but with real emotion about how he had to give up his beloved dream job as a paramedic in order to care for his 3 autistic children.
I haven’t had any time for nursing. I’ve been away from work for a year and a half. I’ve had another child who I have an amzing bond with. I have learned a lot about autism, healthcare systems, education systems, managing on one salary, but I haven’t had any time for me and my vocation.
Maybe. Or have I actually been filling time that I could have had for it with other things because the honest truth is I’m not sure what my vocation is any more. I’ve changed. Our lives have changed. I haven’t stopped to try and reflect on what this means for me.
Hubs and I are both psychiatric nurses. We met 10 years ago on a psychiatric ward where he was newly qualified, and I was a student. Being nurses defined who we were. All of our social networks were through nursing, a lot of our conversations and passionate debates were about mental health care and related issues. Our life goals centred around the usual things like house purchases, where to settle, and what training and promotions we wanted to work towards. Melon was born, and my career drive mellowed slightly, but it was still there, and the urge to continue learning about my profession and to be well regarded and succeed in my work burned on.
But now, since the realisation that Melon was Autistic, since the scary times, since the rock bottom of diagnosis and our steady rise back up to the surface; my goals, my drive, EVERYTHING has changed. My only aim is to work as little as possible so I can be around for my little girl (and my my little man) to hold her world together and to do every single damn thing I can to help her develop her understanding of the world, and her ability to interact with it. I have read and researched so much about Autism in so many different places. I set up a facebook page, I’m writing creatively for the first time in years, I’m self-teaching new aspects of computer use, I’m networking, i’m challenging myself, I’m creating graphics. I haven’t read a single thing about nursing since i’ve been off work. I can’t even raise a passing interest in it.
I love the team I work with, make no mistake about that. My job can be difficult, it can be stressful, but I’m not concerned about being physically and mentally able to do it. I adapted to returning to work part time after having Melon, and I can do it again. The difference this time is that I just don’t feel like I want to. When I think about going back, being part of the team again is really the only thing I am looking forward to. I don’t feel as though I have any enthusiasm, energy or passion left over to squander on something as inconsequential as my career. I’m not prepared to give less to any of the other things I am doing in my life now in order to make space for work.
I have to go back. We can’t afford for me to not work. I could get a job where my lack of passion wasn’t such a problem, but my current salary is pretty reasonable, and I’d have to work far more hours in a different job to get the equivalent income. I could resign and just do agency nursing, but with everything that’s going on with Melon, I think the stability and routine of set hours, paid holiday, sick leave and a manager who knows my circumstances is by far the best option. It allows us to plan, and planning is really important in our lives right now.
So back I go. Feeling as though work is getting in the way of what I want to do, what I should be doing. Feeling as though it is taking away valuable time that I should be spending doing the most important job i will ever ever have – raising Melon and The Boy.
But isn’t that the way it should be? Is it somehow possible that out of all the turmoil of family’s journey over the last 18 months, the most important thing that has changed in me is getting my priorities right? I’ve let go of a lot of things – friendships, expectations, my need to feel in control. Maybe it was about time I let go of the need to be defined by professional success, and to allow being the best mom that I can to be what defines me. To be my vocation.
I think it was, and, do you know? I’m at peace with that.